Woo Hoo What A Ride ~ The 7th Annual Max’s Ride & Concert for ALS

Joel P ~written by our “Trifecta” Joel Porter for the August/September Edition of Biker Living

(Note: With your help the 7th Annual Max’s Ride & Concert for ALS raised $22,275 in donations along with a ton of awareness on ALS! A Huge Thank You to Everyone who has supported the Fight to Strike Out ALS through the years. This is and has always been a TEAM EFFORT!!! We continue the fight for those who are no longer able and together we do make a difference! Save the Date: Max’s Ride VIII~April 19, 2014 stay tuned to MaxALS.org for details. Take Care and Be Safe ~ Whitney)

Just what is this “Max’s Ride” thing anyway? Well, we could say it’s a chance for bikers to soak in a great ride through our beautiful hill country. But, it’s not just bikers. It’s also a great way to say “Thank You” to all our branches of the U.S. Armed Forces for continually putting their lives at stake for all the rest of us. And, it’s also a great way to bring attention to a much worthy cause of finding a way of preventing and treating a vicious evil we call “ALS” or otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

To me it’s a bit more than all that.  Yeah, I’m a biker (since age 12 some 52 years ago), am also a veteran (U.S. Air Force, Viet Nam Vet, 22 years of service) and finally, but unfortunately, I’m also a victim of the ALS Beast (for the past 8 years). I’m proud as can be over the first two of those things. But, that ALS thing is just mean, nasty and has no regard for anyone, regardless of race, social standing, sex or religion. It is a life changing event far greater than anyone can imagine. It not only affects its’ victims but ripples throughout family members and friends, disrupting as many lives as it possibly can.

Even so, I guess in a strange way, I’m lucky, given the context of a typical ALS victim. Hey, I’ve been dealing with this several years longer than most victims live. Yet, if you were to pass me on the street, you’d never guess I was harboring such a vile beast within my body. But, if you heard me try to speak or watched me eat (everything though a feeding tube) or witness me choke on my own saliva, you’d readily detect that something is really wrong with my health. I do all I can to hide it, to ignore it and basically use my mind to keep distracting me from the reality of all this. Given my background, I’m perhaps a bit better equipped to steer my mind away from the ALS thoughts. Still, I’m not completely successful in keeping it hidden. The impact on my personal life has been tremendous. Can’t speak, can’t eat, can’t drink, low energy level and all that leads to a rather inactive social life. But, I can still move about…….especially…I can still ride my bike.

So, I hope you can see that Max’s Ride is very special to me and so many others. People need to be aware of the path of destruction ALS leaves in its’ wake and to know that we need the support of events like this to continue the fight. I’m not giving up anytime soon and if I can fight, so can so many others.

As for the ride itself..What a day!!! When you get a new Max’s Ride record number of registered riders together, there’s gonna be noise. Beautiful noise! As for the weather, if I didn’t know better, I’d have imagined that Whitney personally took charge of that also and guaranteed us a perfect day to cruise through the hill country. With kickstands up at 11am sharp, escorted by the Austin Police Department, we headed out knowing we wouldn’t have to put our feet on the ground for the next hour as we took the long, long way around to get to Scholz Garten in downtown Austin.

One doesn’t just “ride” a bike. It’s more like you “wear” it as it becomes an extension of one’s own body. Add in all the other things like the smell of fresh air, the sensual feeling of all the power just beneath you and especially the thunderous sound that surrounds you by being in such a large pact of bikers. It no longer feels as if you’re a single rider but more like all the bikes and bikers are now a collective entity that’s operating like a fine watch. Every action is as one, it’s like fluid in nature. Man, does it feel great. People stop. They wave. They long to be a part of all this and to feel what we’re feeling.

As we enter the city, the sound increases and instead of cars pulling over to watch us go by, now it’s people walking that stop, take notice and many with their phone/camera trying to capture this event. But, there is really no way they can truly capture the feeling and spirit of this event, not with a picture. It can only be felt and understood by saddling up on an iron horse and joining us sometime in the future.

Given my situation with ALS, as another Max’s Ride ends, I’m left to wonder if this is to be my last ride. I simply don’t know. Many of the friends I’ve met along the way and lost their battle with the beast. I’ve been to far too many funerals during these past 8 years. Often times they succumb quickly with respiratory problems. It’s not been unusual with spending time with someone that by all means seems to be doing well, only to find out in just a week or two they’re gone. It’s painful, especially trying to determine just what is it that causes this illness.

Yes, I’m lucky in that weird sort of way. And ALS victims are so very lucky to have Whitney and the Max’s Ride Volunteers helping them fight to try to wipe out ALS. I am constantly amazed at the energy and passion that Whitney devotes to Max’s Ride and other ALS Fundraising events. Imagine for a moment the vast array of diverse things that must come together to put an event like this. Coordinate with Cowboy Harley Davidson, Austin Police Department, Disabled American Veterans, ALS Association, arrange an Honor Guard, and recruit assistants to help with registration and the various activities that take place during the morning, arrange for a PA system and so many other things I can’t begin to imagine. Now, all that is quite a heavy undertaking in and of itself. But, now as the bikes leave for the Hill Country, volunteers are packing up everything and hurrying down to Scholz Garten to set a whole new logistical challenge in motion before the bikes arrive.

How she does all that, I’ll never understand. But, I know in my heart that you could never find a better person to be fighting in your corner than Whitney. I have yet to miss a Max’s Ride since its’ inception 7 years ago and as long as I can still breathe, I’ll keep coming. I may have to forego the actual ride itself, but just watching Whitney’s passion for this just cause will always be enough for me.

I personally wish to thank all of the people and sponsors for the success that Max’s Ride has become. It keeps growing every year. Spread the word and let’s give it more room to grow. And if it’s willed so by that higher power, I’ll see ya’ll again next year.

In the meantime, peace and love to all and one big eternal hug for Whitney. We all love all that you do for us.

Joel P.